As the world prepares itself for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the city is already taking extra precautions due to a growing concern for the high temperatures Japan is known for in the summer.
Tokyo has already had a rough go about it when it came to planning the most famous sporting event in history for 2020. Originally, the cities government had planned on spending around $30 billion on the event in total, a majority of that budget going towards the construction of the brand new stadium in which the event will be held (see image below). There was a massive push back from Tokyo’s residents for this expensive project and after months of government meetings the budget was decreased by $5 billion.
“We have been able to cut the budget and Tokyo has been doing its best to deliver the Games in a sustainable way. We feel that with the agenda for 2020, our venue master plan has certainly become more refined, it is able to meet the public needs, the needs of this generation.” Masa Takaya said during a meeting at organizing committee headquarters.
Sponsorship’s from big businesses along with help from the local and national governments will cover $20 billion of the cost while the official Olympic Tokyo 2020 organization will cover around $5.6 billion.
As one problem seems to dwindle more seem to appear, the biggest one now being about the predicted weather for the summer season in Tokyo. Japan is known for its especially hot and humid summers and not in a positive way, they’re actually quite dangerous. Temperatures normally reach a LOW of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, along with humidity reaching up to 80% and the UV Index on average is a 10. When all of these conditions combine it creates a really dangerous air quality and overall outdoor environment that can quickly and negatively affect an individuals health if they’re not adjusted to the conditions, or just stay outside for too long.
This past summer 58 residents of Tokyo all died due to heat related causes, one of those individuals was a worker on the new stadium. The greatest concern facing officials for the games is the safety of the athletes and fans. Humidity is a natural defiant energy against your bodies cooling systems, which is especially detrimental to athletes. The biggest concern is athletes suffering from heat stroke especially during high endurance events.
“About 15 percent of athletes even in a cool environment have body temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. But, when the temperature gets above that, more athletes could face heat stroke,” according to George Havenith, an expert on the effects of climate on athletes at Britain’s Loughborough University.
As the stadium nears completion, Tokyo has been holding several trial endurance runs to test how the temperature in the stadium varies during different events and effect the athletes. So far they’ve been focusing on triathlon trials, since that event involves a massive amount of endurance, and the results have been relatively similar. All the athletes feel extreme discomfort and fear of heat stroke, even when they’re competing in the swimming section. The high water temperatures impact athletes just as much as being in the hot dry air.
As trials continue Olympic organizers in Tokyo are working on many other precautionary measures to have ready by the time the summer games commence. High endurance events are being rescheduled to be early in the morning, when temperatures are their coolest. Medical staff will be stationed every 50 meters on the marathon course, as well as staff will have a massive amount of water on hand, much more than normal apparently.
Havenith also suggests “having ice baths available for the athletes to cool them down quickly…it’s very important to have that, because if you decide to (take) them to the hospital before you do the cooling, you put them at risk. In addition athletes should try to arrive to Tokyo as early as they can so their bodies can better adjust to the environment.”
In addition, Tokyo 2020 is planning on taking a page out of the winter Olympic handbook to help solve the heat issue. Organizers are looking into (and already testing) using snow machines during the games to cool down the entire stadium. Snow machines are used during the winter Olympics often for indoor events as well as filling bare patches on ski courses. However, in this case they’d be used to spray the spectators in the bleachers to keep general temperatures, environmental and body, low.
“We haven’t decided definitively that we will use this system next year for the Olympics, but we want to test it to see how effective it is, the machines can generate more than a ton of snow per day,” a Tokyo 2020 spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse.
The snow machines can also potentially work with the air conditioning system in the stadium to circulate and cool the air brought about from the snow machines.
The Summer 2020 Olympic games are definitely looking to be a hot one. Hopefully that heat will become a metaphor for how well the athletes are doing, and not so much the literal dangerous temperatures in the stadium.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.